Chitose Agriculture Initiative

[dropcap size=small]L[/dropcap]ove the crunchy and clean-tasting apples from Aomori, or the sweet and creamy pumpkin from Hokkaido? There is now an easier way to get fruit and vegetables from Japan, without the need to take a flight, or even make that trip down to the Isetan or Meidi-Ya supermarkets.

For a weekly fee of $162.50, customers can get a box of produce from Chitose Agriculture Initiative (CAI). Each box contains seven to nine varieties of fruits and vegetables, sufficient for a family of four for about five to six meals.

CAI works with over 50 artisan farms across Japan and Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands to source for fresh produce.

The selection of produce that goes into the box is done omakase style, a Japanese dining terms that translates to “leave it to the chef”. In other words, only seasonal produce goes into the box and it can vary each week.

Besides apples from Aomori, and white bochan pumpkin from Hokkaido, other produce that have been shipped to customers include baby kale from Ibaraki and persimmon from Nara.

All the produce shipped to CAI’s customers meet the high quality controls set by the Japanese Agricultural Standards, which are requirements for the agriculture industry maintained by the Japanese government.

CAI’s founder Tomohiro Fujita decided to start the company after noticing that while South-east Asia has enjoyed continued economic prosperity and growth for the last 20 years, “the education on the importance of quality food did not enjoy the same growth rate. The quality of life across aspects such as transportation and housing has improved significantly but we cannot say the improvement on food produce has been the same”.

The CAI merchandising team short-listed farmers who are strong advocates in sustainable agriculture. CAI delivers all the hand-picked agricultural goodness directly to homes in Singapore within 48 hours of harvest and “remains steadfast in its on-going efforts to uphold its mission to support ethical and sustainable agriculture to feed future generations”, says Fujita.

The company also has its own farm in Cameron Highlands, where it uses state-of-the-art Japanese technology to produce fresh strawberries for some of the top restaurants and patisseries in Singapore, such as Saint Pierre and Suju Japanese Restaurant.

Deliveries are done only on Fridays, and while it may be quicker to pop down to the supermarkets to get some Japanese produce, Fujita maintains that CAI produce is tastier.

While the produce at supermarkets is of high quality, the produce often have a longer shelf life, and this often means that the produce is harvested before it is fully ripe, which supposedly compromises on the taste.

“At CAI, the farmers who we work with are all artisan farmers who cultivate premium-quality produce using sustainable agriculture cultivation methods. We like to call this the kanjuku (fully riped) style,” adds Fujita.